Howitt Family

Our family’s connection to the Howitt family comes through Ida Langley Howitt, who married Wilbur Unseld Johnstone.

The earliest member of the Howitt family that can reliably be traced is Thomas Howitt, who lived in Heanor, Derbyshire, England in the early 1700’s. He married Catherine Charlton and they had at least one son, William.

William Howitt married Mary Bestwick in 1750. They had at least one son, Thomas, born in 1762. Mary was the sole heiress of a wealthy Nottinghamshire gentleman, from whom Thomas received a large sum of money which he proceeded to spend profligately. Although eventually cut off from this, and other, inheritances he squandered all of the family’s money. William died in 1799 and Mary died about 1804.

Thomas Howitt married Phebe Tantum in 1786. She was born in 1758 to Francis and Elizabeth (Redfern) Tantum. Phebe was a Quaker, and Thomas became one as well. Thomas and Phebe had at least seven children; Francis, Emmanuel, Godfrey, Tantum, Thomas (b. abt 1787), William (b. abt 1795) and Richard (b. abt 1797). Phebe died Nov 11, 1840 and Thomas died June 4, 1848 in Heanor, Derbyshire, England.

On a side note, William Howitt married Mary Botham in 1821. William was an accomplished author and Mary an accomplished poet. Together and separately they published a number of books and stories. Among them is a ghost story involving the death of William’s brother, Francis. Much of the early Howitt family history comes from a biography of William written by Mary after his death in 1879.

Thomas Howitt (II) married Ann Milward, March 8, 1808 in Nottingham, England. They had one son, Thomas Milward, born Aug 14, 1814 in Heanor. Thomas was a ship’s captain and died in New York City during a voyage on April 25, 1843.

Thomas Howitt (III) married Mary Dunn on June 1, 1852. She was born on Feb 2, 1811 in Langley Mills, England and was the daughter of Thomas and Hannah (Barlows) Dunn. They had seven children; Hannah, Mary Wood (b. abt 1846), William (b. 1853), Thomas (b. abt 1856), Frank (b. abt 1858), Tantum Milward (b. 1859) and Edith (b. abt 1862). Thomas, Mary and their family emigrated to Ontario sometime before 1865. Thomas (III) died in Dorchester, Ontario on Oct 13, 1865. Mary died in London, Ontario on Dec 24, 1905.

Tantum Milward Howitt married Lola Adelaide Aylsworth on July 20, 1882 in Detroit, Michigan. She was the daughter of Daniel Perry and Lucinda (Fralick) Aylsworth and was born Feb 7, 1861 in Dorchester, Ontario. Tantum worked for the railroad and he and his family lived in many different towns along the railway, eventually settling in London, Ontario. They had five children; Ethel Edith (b. Dec 2, 1883), Milward Tantum Perry (b. Aug 24, 1885), Ida Langley (b. May 1, 1888, Amhurstburg, Ont), Winifred M. (b. June 19, 1890) and Richard Lancelot (b. Nov 20, 1892, Ringold, Ont).

Winifred Howitt died of a childhood illness on Sept 21, 1906. Tantum and Lola Howitt were killed on July 16, 1907 along with five other people when the east wall of Reid’s Crystal Hall in London, Ontario, which was undergoing renovations at the time, collapsed.

Ethel Edith Howitt married Thomas Edward Penfold. They had six children; Helen, Donna, Thomas Howitt Stephen, Virginia Adelaide, Jeane Louise and Lois Camilla. Thomas worked for the railroad and died in 1928 in a railway accident. Ethel died on Oct 3, 1948.

Milward Howitt married Ethel Bradford about 1907. She was born in Canada about 1887. They had two children, Eleanor (b. abt 1913) and Clyde (b. abt 1918). Milward, Ethel and her mother, Elizabeth, are shown living in Detroit, Michigan in the 1910 census. Milward was a toolmaker in 1910, the manager of a tool company in 1920 and Secretary-Treasurer of a tool company in 1930. He died in 1958.

Richard Lancelot Howitt was only 16 when his parents died. He went to live with his older sister, Ethel and her husband in Windsor. He traveled for a time throughout the American west. He married Edith Haffner of New Jersey in 1913, but she died before 1915. In 1915, at the outbreak of WWI he joined the Fourth Canadian Mounted Rifles. He was sent overseas, where he fought and was taken prisoner at Sanctuary Woods outside of Ypes, Belgium. He eventually escaped from the prisoner of war camp, getting to Holland, which was neutral in WWI and was sent back to Canada. He went into business with Wilbur Johnston, and after the partnership ended continued as the Howitt Battery and Electrical Service until a series of heart attacks forced him to turn it over to his nephew, Howitt Penfold. Richard married Sadie and they had two children; Richard and William Tantum.

Ida Langley Howitt, along with her brother, Richard, went to live with her sister, Edith after her parent’s death. She may also have lived with her aunt Mercy Aylsworth in London, Ontario for a time as well. Ida went into vaudeville, first dancing on roller-skates and then as part of a sharp-shooting act. After a close call with a bullet, she left vaudeville and returned to Windsor, Ontario. She took classes at a business school in Detroit started working at a coal distribution company as a clerk.

She met and married Wilbur Unseld Johnstone on June 12, 1917 in Windsor, Ontario. They had four children; Richard Tantum (b. Feb 2, 1919), Teddy Wynn (b. July 18, 1920), Joan Virginia (b. Nov 23, 1923) and Beverly Shirley Jean (b. Apr 2, 1925).


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